How drugs get made

The development and manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs is a complex procedure that takes place in a highly regulated environment. It is also a highly competitive area of scientific research that is perhaps more prone to controversy than any other. Being an industry that caters to humanity at its most vulnerable, it is often the case that the excitement of discovering a drug with the potential to eradicate a disease is overshadowed by the criticism levelled at its general affordability.

The Cost of Discovery

The aim of pharmaceutical research is to discover new compounds with which to battle illness and disease. When a natural or synthetic compound is found that has a positive medicinal effect on a medical condition, its properties must be thoroughly researched to determine its safety for human use. Laboratory tests will involve tissue cultures on plates and will also involve extensive animal testing to discover how the compound’s biological and chemical properties react in a living creature. If a new compound shows no harmful effects in animals, then controlled clinical trials on humans can commence. It is a long and laborious process usually done at significant cost.

Animal Trials and Ethics

Animals such as rats and mice that share a similar physiological and genetic makeup with humans make hugely significant contributions to the furthering of medical science. Conflicting views on the ethics of the situation has seen many protests staged with almost equal representation by individuals both for and against the practice. Similar conflict arises when a control group is human.

Human Trials

The testing of new drugs on human subjects is strictly controlled and must follow legislated guidelines. They are set up to ensure that participants give their informed consent, which means that they must be made aware of any possible risks to their health, as well as being told of the principle aim of the study. Participants must also be free to leave the trials at any time. Huge controversy surrounds almost every stage of clinical testing and every aspect has been debated at length with little resolution being reached. It is felt by many critics that most individuals who take part in clinical trials do so because of dire financial circumstances rather than a desire to assist in developing new drugs to combat disease.

Although pharmaceutical companies often justify the astronomical cost of many medications by citing research expenses, many critics find it highly unethical to withhold proven drugs from the less fortunate who are afflicted. It is a controversy that will continue to rage with each new discovery.